Monday, 31 December 2012

#18 Reality Check

Well it looks like QPR upset Santa this year as our two festive home fixtures returned no points after the farce of a defeat to WBA and comprehensive and humiliating drubbing to Liverpool.

Words can not describe how sick I feel this morning after the way we were taken apart by Liverpool yesterday. My rejuvenated optimism and hope was quickly crushed as the sheer helplessness of the team and its shortcomings unfolded against a Liverpool team that was taken apart by Stoke just four days earlier. This was a Stoke team that has the belief, passion, and fight, to battle for the results (very much like we used to.) You will not see headline signings on £65k+ a week there. Each and every one of them will run and fight for each other for the cause of Stoke. They also found themselves 3- 1 down at home to Southampton after not playing well, but still had the fight and spirit to get a draw. I did not see these qualities collectively as a team from QPR yesterday, in fact not for a very long time. But it's not just yesterdays result that hurts, its more than that. What has our beloved QPR turned into. We have been here before, I have seen us in trouble like this more often than not over the last forty plus years, but the teams we've put out have always fuelled optimism and had a glimmer of hope and still made me proud of them. I don't get that feeling from this team.

I, like most hard core QPR fans love our club unconditionally. We don't expect to win the premier league, we hope...we want to try and challenge and get our satisfaction from being in the challenge, in the running and exceeding expectations.(We could win a cup) But above all QPR is our club, we have our own way, we always put out a team that try, play football the right way and that compete. We know what we are, we know our limitations, but we love QPR. We now have a manager that recognises these values and in the short time he has been with us, I think he's hurting as much as us R's fans. And believe me the pain is agonising at the moment and I'm sure all R's are also feeling it, but this time there is no pain relief in hope, as this team fails to inspire, and that's a first with me. This does not apply to all the team, there are still those that will fight for the cause and its no surprise that in these tough times its the real QPR players that got us into the big time that have been recalled to lead the way along with Nelson. ( a rare successful acquisition)

Loving QPR unconditionally does not mean we have to be detached from reality and it saddens me to see the bickering in the social media between R's fans saying its not loyal to voice criticism. But is it criticism? Surely we have to keep it real. Slagging off players in public or on the social media is not helpful, but I don't have the right to prevent anyone expressing their opinions. However, discussion of QPR's shortcomings and our views are both helpful and our right, even though it is sometimes hard to see the truth for what it is. Some QPR fans have been a little delusional since the arrival of Tony Fernandes and many have subscribed to the ambitions and plans that our energetic new owners have for our club (myself included). From an outsiders perspective (rightly or wrongly) QPR could/has been perceived as delusional with ideas of grandeur, and many are celebrating the situation we find ourselves in. I myself have always been honest in my blog and tried to emphasis the emotions experienced following the R's. This honesty has always reflected reality, so here's another reality check.

Harry's predecessor (you know, that Welsh bloke - still cant say his name) has in eleven months ruined much of what is the QPR way and (almost) what we waited sixteen years to get back. Apart from the fact that he never played football our way (insisting on being so deep and inviting pressure as opposed to excitement and attacking flair,albeit sometimes cavalier) he had the best resources ever afforded to a QPR manager. He acquired players that were getting on in years, past there best and just plain greedy, most of whom were on unprecedented salaries for QPR and on long term deals, (and we are yet to find out if they have relegation clauses) again not all of them, but most of them. This caused ill feeling amongst the proven QPR players that remained on much smaller contracts. He failed to strengthen the defence, which was our most obvious failing, when he said he would conduct his transfer business early. Of the players he bought that had any kind of pedigree, such recognition was gained as part of much better teams and in reality can not deliver when the onus is on them to lead. (one example being Park.) Results were dire and we survived relegation last year despite him being in charge. The shortcomings we have now are his legacy to QPR. The result of his failure to acquire the right players to make a QPR team. To put it bluntly, the team he built is not good enough. We do not look like a premier league team and have been punching above our weight. I have not seen a team so devoid of any attacking sense ever at QPR, this bunch of players do not know how to create or punish defences at this level and you can count the amount of times we get more than one man in the six yard box in a game on one hand, its no wonder we have only had one penalty this season.

I don't envy the task Harry has with what he has inherited on the playing side. Yes there are some players that put the effort in, but most of them are simply not good enough to produce what we need to improve, let alone survive. The fact that Harry has been starting Wright-Phillips is testament to the shortcomings in reliability of our squad, as he is not good enough despite his efforts or recent slight improvement. Robert Green (already relegated from the top flight twice - Jonah) is an absolute liability, regularly beaten from distance and makes too many costly errors. Against WBA, foul or no foul, why didn't he punch the ball out and/or push Fortune back out of the way. There are more players that have improved under Harry, but again are not good enough to improve our form or save us from the drop and I could go on naming names, but you know who they are. We only won seven games in 2012 and in any ones book that is a poor return, but it looks better than it really is as we have only won once since April.

The reality of the situation is that, as the team stands today, it is just not good enough and fails to inspire any hope of survival, being a QPR fan and an eternal optimist, for me to say that it must be bad. So unless Harry can conjure up some magic in the transfer window and destroy the destructive legacy left by his predecessor, I will not be expecting that sudden run of form and deluge of points unless the team is significantly improved. I will not give up hoping in my heart, but my head will be expecting Championship football next season. Unless Harry can improve the team, the fact is, you cant see us surviving. However, the fat lady is not singing yet and should you see one don't let her open her mouth!

Even as I write this, I remember the 1990/91 season. We were stuck in the bottom three for months after a bad start to the season and lost many games up to Christmas including eight in a row. Don Howe was manager and took on Bobby Gould to assist for a short while, with the latter discovering some gems in the transfer market as we signed the likes of Darren Peacock, Rufus Brevet and Andy Tilson amongst a few others when we were in a dire mess. These acquisitions epitomised every thing that we are at QPR and we ended the season comfortably above the drop zone. That was against the odds then much like now, but we done it then and I only hope we can do it again now in a similar fashion.

As I get to the end of this blog post, the pain is still there and I still can't watch Sky Sports News because I just cant bear to be reminded of yesterday's game and the R's predicament  does get you down. Relegation I can handle, (I don't like it, but can handle it) but the manner in which we are playing is hard to stomach. It is not the QPR way and it hurts. I will draw hope and optimism not from the team, but from those few QPR players that are real QPR. I will draw hope from Harry Redknapp and the fact that he believes he can save us. I will draw hope from the open transfer window and the subliminal messages from Harry in his post match interview regarding this matter. And I will draw hope from the family that is the QPR fans and our shared understanding of what it is like to support the R's. We will share the pain, and the glory, because should the worst happen to us this season we will be back. We're QPR, its what we do.

Come on you R's

The Bush Ranger

Next blog out after the Spurs home game - don't want this blog to be too concentrated on match reports.Want to mix it up a bit. Comments welcome.

Monday, 24 December 2012

#17 Failure to Deliver

Harry Redknapp’s unbeaten start to his QPR reign came to a disappointing end on Saturday as the R’s went down to a late goal to lose one nil at St James Park. Harry made three changes to the team that beat Fulham last week, Wright-Phillips moving to the bench to accommodate Granero in the middle with Fabio and Ferdinand coming in as full backs, as Traore and Onuoha failed to recover from knocks.  Ferdinand was the unusual inclusion at right back as the result of Bosingwa no longer being an option after refusing to sit on the bench last week after being dropped and was subsequently fined two weeks wages. (£130000 according to Harry)
Said a few home truths
The R’s started the game solidly, but without the attacking initiative of recent weeks and the early exchanges were fairly even.  As the game progressed in the driving cold north east rain, chances were few and far between and a drab opening half was spoiled further by Newcastle’s insistence on playing the long ball game. Cisse did little and Mackie had a half chance saved as the teams went into the break level.
QPR’s aim was to upset the Geordie’s game and the spoiling tactics were proving to be successful as the normally vociferous home crowd were kept quiet. Sadly, some players were distinctly lack lustre today and we never looked like we were going to score. Granero looked subdued, Cisse was ineffective and Taarabt and Mackie’s opportunities to influence the game were rare.  Newcastle continued to employ the long ball and Pardew decided to replace Papa Cisse with Ameobi for a more physical presence in complimenting the long ball tactics. His introduction did little to put off the R’s excellent centre half pairing of Nelson and Hill, as they battled their hearts out to take something from the game.
As the game entered its final 10 minutes, the R’s defence were coping comfortably with everything Newcastle had to offer, but we were failing to make any effective chances in the opposition area despite Harry making changes by bringing on Hoilett and Wright-Phillips, so Derry was brought on to see out the draw. Two minutes later, Ameobi hit the winner for Newcastle after an innocuous attack found the striker unmarked when Fabio should have picked him up, but opted to challenge for the ball when we  already had players to cover. Fabio’s mistake let Ameobi in to sell a dummy to the lunging Taarabt and tuck the ball in wide off Green…game over… lost one nil. A very disappointing result considering we were solid defensively, but devoid of anything attacking that would result in a goal.  We should have been looking to get a point today, as Newcastle have been poor lately and were not much better  today and were probably the biggest purveyors of the long game we have come across this season.

Dear Santa please give us enough points to stay up
Harry Redknapp, having just lead the R’s to their longest unbeaten period in the premiership since our return to the top flight was understandably down beat in the presser after the game. He was disappointed that he only has one fit striker (and that it is Cisse) thus limiting his attacking options, and that he had to change the defence around , which lead to the inevitable questions regarding Bosingwa. It seems the story had broken that morning and Harry was not slow in confirming the formers petulance and the resulting punishment whilst mocking the absurdity of his salary in comparison to his ability. Harry went on to berate the ridiculous wages some of the players were earning whilst only being average, suggesting they were not worth it and almost robbing the club. Reading between the lines this has also had a detrimental effect amongst the players in regard to the large gap in earnings between the new and old personnel.

Whilst Harry is completely correct in what he was saying, I believe his remarks were also intended to shame some of the players into upping their game. Harry had quite a bit to say, he expressed his reluctance to spend (waste) more of the owner’s money, adding that they had already had their trousers taken down and been spanked enough by agents, inadequate players and more or less the previous management.  My interpretation of his remarks is that his predecessor (I can’t bring myself to mention his name) had left the club in turmoil and he certainly doesn’t rate some of the players that have been brought in of late.  It seems to me that Harry has (and always has) one eye on the task of getting QPR promoted back into the Premiership next season, as indeed most of us are starting to have. Having said that, I don’t believe he has accepted we will be relegated, yet, but he is hedging his bets. I think that Harry believes he can get us back at the first attempt and is mindful of what he needs to do to achieve that. As Harry continued in his frank and honest presser he looked bewildered at how one man had been left to cause such a mess at our club in addition to the failure to deliver at the club from top to bottom.
There have been mistakes and much failing to deliver since our return to the top flight. It started pre Fernandes when we should never have sold our best centre half, Gorkes or failed to secure the services of Routlage.  Fernandes then took over and we panicked and bought badly in Barton, Wright-Phillips, Ferdinand and Traore, then gave them inflated long term deals.  Tony to his credit put his money up but failed the club by employing a manager that was given too much control and took too long in getting rid of him. Phil Beard, whilst excellent at what he does, has also failed to deliver in allowing sub standard players to be paid ridiculous money on long term deals and has been naive in player negotiations to say the least. Harry’s predecessor was the worst culprit in his failure to deliver. He made further poor buys, running the club beyond its reasonable means and didn’t get the team to play or achieve the results. The players have also failed this club and its fans in failing to deliver on the pitch or getting results. (With the exception of a few) Only the fans of QPR can hold their heads up with pride as the support home and away has been fantastic.
So where does that leave us now? Can we get out of this mess? With regard to the off field mess, Beard and Co will have learnt from this. On the field if anyone can get us out of this Harry can, but I haven’t seen enough yet to suggest we will. To stay up this year we are going to have to do things like win back to back games. We have not achieved back to back victories since April 2011 and not since December 1995 in the premier league. (and not at all since our return) We are going to have to win away from home and take maximum points from those around us. It’s not impossible, but things will have to change for the better, now. We have to beat WBA and Liverpool in our next two fixtures to be on sixteen points at the turn of the year, similar to last year. If we can do that I think we are in with a shout. Hopefully by then, Harry can do some business in January and put out a team that can do what Harry wants them to do and we can maybe start to win back to back and away from home.
The next two games are vital to QPR and I still think it’s do-able and so does Harry. Either way, we all love QPR no matter what,  and what will be will be.
Merry Christmas to all you R’s fans.  Here’s hoping Santa will give the R’s thirty five more points minimum this season.
Next blog out after Liverpool home.

Come on you R’s

The Bush Ranger

Tuesday, 18 December 2012

#16 The one that DIDN'T get away

Queens Park Rangers finally ended the agonising misery that has been the R's fans lot this season, with a convincing victory over local rivals Fulham, as Harry Redknapp's unbeaten start to his tenure was stretched to four games.

The R's started their 17th game of this campaign making two changes to last weeks starting eleven with Onuoha replacing the woeful Bosingwa (who had a torrid second half at Wigan last week) and R's favourite Faurlin coming in at the expense of Derry. Harry kept faith with Wright-Phillips as the team was again built around QPR's mercurial genius that is Adel Taarabt. Taarabt's task was to exploit the space behind front man Cisse and generally terrorise Fulham through the centre. Mackie and SWP were utilised wide, with Faurlin back in his familiar holding role assisted by Mbia, with the latter contributing to our attacking options as Taarabt occupied opposition defenders.

QPR hit the ground running for the second week in a row, quickly taking the initiative and forcing Fulham back, as Cisse and Taarabt both forcing saves from the Fulham keeper. Taarabt was orchestrating most of the R's attacking play as he dominated the hole from the centre circle up to Cisse and for 25 minutes Fulham could not cope as they were forced into making errors. QPR continued to create chances and Mackie uncharacteristically missed a golden chance to put the R's one up with only the keeper to beat, after cleverly capitalising on a Fulham error. Fulham's eventual response was to take the sting out of the game, trying to keep possession deep in their own half in the hope of frustrating QPR and the fans. This had a detrimental effect on the game and the last 20 minutes of the first half became a scrappy affair with silly errors from both sides. The sides went into half time level, with the R's a little aggrieved not to be leading as they had mustered six shots on target and another six off compared to Fulham's no efforts at all.

And they still could't stop him
QPR began the second half much the same as the first, with most of the offencive success happening centrally as the R's continued using Taarabt down the middle, following our unsuccessful   attempts attacking with width in recent weeks. The breakthrough moment came in the 52nd minute, when Taarabt again picked up the ball centrally and headed down the middle at pace, before unleashing a shot that deflected off Hangeland to send Swarzer the wrong way and Loftus Road ignited.

Fulham failed to respond, as QPR continued to control the game and rarely looked threatened as the R's looked capable of keeping a lead for the first time this season until the 68th minute, when the lead was doubled. Taarabt was fed by Mackie, who again went on another central run, keeping the ball as he bundled into a Fulham midfielder. Tab's took the ball further forward as the R's fans stood up in their seats in anticipation, Cisse made a cross run into the area, (Would have been off side if he got the ball) screaming for the ball as he took a defender with him, thus leaving just enough room for Tab's to stroke the ball into the bottom corner with the outside of his boot as the stadium erupted once more.

The Cottagers were again non responsive and on the whole were very negative (which is surprising when you consider they can be quite decent at home) and never looked like scoring until a deflected shot beat Green from outside the area with their first shot on target from open play. Personally, I think Green should have done better with it, as it was far enough out for him to respond. He was also responsible for a rare threat from Fulham when he kicked the ball straight to their forward in the first half. I don't think having Green in goal instills any confidence in the side and he is not an improvement on Kenny, but Cesar is, and I look forward to seeing Cesar back between the sticks asap.

Mackie and Tab's celebrate R's second goal
This unlikely goal in the 87th minute made for a nervy ending, but this was one lead that didn't get away, as we saw out the final minutes for our first victory. The team had worked hard ,the defence were sharper, more focused and committed, as were the midfield. Harry got the team pressing for the ball earlier and higher up the pitch, enabling Taarabt and the like to see much more of the ball and in turn created more chances than we had been creating of late, whilst restricting the opportunities against us. The performance today was in stark contrast to the lack luster shambles when we lost to Southampton and the improvement reaped the rewards it deserved.

We are not there yet, but it's a start.  We will need to have alternative options as Taarabt won't be able to do this every week and the team has to work very hard to accommodate this option. (Hence SWP's inclusion) SWP did work hard today, but again made mistakes and gave the ball away, as did Traore on the occasions we did go forward with any width. Surely the time has come to try a different option at left back. Having said that, Harry did drop our other inadequate full back, replacing him with Onuoha, who he did a better job than Bosingwa has been doing. (He's much better at FB than CH) Mbia had a better game, but I would still prefer to see him in the back four, where he only has to think about what's in front of him, at least until he's had a season to adjust in the premier league. 

QPR earned a deserved three points today, made all the sweeter as it was against our nearest rivals, was a good performance in front of a full house and ended our dismal winless run. Harry has now got the R's on a run of form. Four games undefeated with six Points, two more than his predecessors managed in the other thirteen games. As I have mentioned before, it was vitally important that Harry started picking up points straight away, so that we can have around fifteen or sixteen points come January 1st. We have three games until then, two at home against WBA and Liverpool and one away at Newcastle on Saturday. I don't think five points from nine would be an unrealistic ask. That would put us on fifteen and in with a chance. Confidence is on the up and the team is looking more solid and working for each other, why can't this run of form continue. All I know is, the last few weekends have not been ruined and last weekend was superb... and we're not bottom any more... and we're above Chelsea in the recent form table.

It's never an easy trip up at Newcastle, but if there is a good time to play at St James I'd like to think it is now with the Geordie's having lost six out of the last seven. If we can start in the ascendancy like the last two games and get an early goal, we should have a good chance, however unlikely that may seem. We're into the second half of the big seven games to the transfer window since Harry took over and have picked up half the points available whilst improving game by game. The R's fans confidence is building up again, are we going to do this? Newcastle will be a big indicator. Can we follow up our first victory with our first away victory? There's a good chance.

Come on you R's

The Bush Ranger

Tuesday, 11 December 2012

#15 Must Do Better

If The Rangers were having a better season, you would say a draw at Wigan wasn’t a bad result. But we’re having a nightmare of a season and although we battled to earn a point, it was three points that we needed and we ended up losing more ground on the elusive 17th place that we coveted last season.
Harry opted to keep Nelson and Hill at the centre of the back with Mackie leading the line and surprisingly started Derry in the middle (at the expense of Granero) as Harry ensured the spine of the team would be hardworking and strong. The rest of the midfield was built around Taarabt with the plan being that everything would go through the aforementioned Moroccan genius and would explain Harry’s worrying inclusion of Wright-Phillips in the starting eleven. Diakite and Mbia completed the midfield with Traore and Bosingwa completing the back four.
Nelson heads home
QPR began the game impressively, keeping the ball and passing well whilst playing at a quick pace and for 15 minutes were more than a handful for Wigan. Most of the attacking play for QPR happened on the right without ever really threatening seriously as it always seemed to break down in the last third, as we ran out of ideas and never got the ball in their box enough.  Most annoying was the lack of imagination from the likes of Bosingwa, SWP and even Diakite and Mbia, who opted for the easy option of giving  the ball back to Taarabt to see if he could  conjure up a scoring opportunity rather than being more adventurous and forcing Wigan into errors. Wigan’s weakened side had to do something to stop the R’s early dominance and resorted to spoiling tactics with petty fouls breaking down promising attacking opportunities, whilst going down every time they were tackled and stopping the game. This ultimately took the pace out of QPR’s game and we never regained the same momentum after that. True to form, the R’s fell behind on 19 minutes as McCarthy was allowed to ghost in unchallenged to score, against the run of play, with a shot that deflected off Mackie.
Wigan’s lead was to last only 10 minutes as the R’s continued to plug away and forced a corner, which was headed home at the near post by Nelson, as QPR finally managed to score from a set piece. The thousand plus travelling R’s, already in good voice, erupting in delirium as the noise reached new heights, but QPR failed to capitalise on their ascendancy and the sides went into the break level.
The second half saw an about turn and it was Wigan that got out of the blocks first, as they passed the ball around keeping possession, but unlike QPR, created a few good chances and regularly caused bedlam in the QPR box. Wigan were now enjoying their best spell and for 25 minutes they put QPR to task and the R’s had to work very hard to remain on level terms. This sustained period saw Taarabt do very little, with Diakite and Mbia also disappointing in a creative sense. Harry made a change bringing on Cisse to lead the line at the expense of Taarabt with Mackie and SWP being our wide men. Shortly after this, it was QPR’s turn to score against the run of play. A misplaced pass from the Wigan defence was charged down by SWP and Mbia fed the resultant loose ball back to SWP, who cut in to square the ball for Cisse to side foot home and give QPR a rare away lead whilst sending the R’s fans into further raptures. Sadly, the lead was to be short lived, as a resolute R’s defence was breached only 3 minutes later. McCarthy was again on the score sheet, as he slotted the ball home inside the area when surrounded by 5 R’s players with Mbia, the man that should have been on McCarthy, watching the proceedings happen without acting.
Cisse strokes QPR into a short lived lead
In Harry's three games the defence has improved and there was nothing wrong with the way the team was set up, however, as with all line ups or formations, everyone has to do their job. When someone doesn’t, it stops working and that’s what happened today. Everyone was picked up on the corner leading to the first Wigan goal, but an error of judgement let McCarthy in and the deflection left Green with no chance. Similarly, individual error was the cause of the second goal as mentioned earlier.  It doesn’t help QPR’s cause when keep picking full backs that aren’t good enough with Traore virtually guaranteed to start at left back due to the lack of a quality left footed defender (of which Traore is not) and Bosingwa seems to be getting the nod at right back. How Chelsea won the champions League with him in their team I don’t know. (In fact how did Chelsea win the CL?) I would like to see Fabio play in his natural position at left back and try Mbia out at Right back as at Old Trafford where he did a good job and believe he would do a better job for QPR at the back. I don’t really think Mbia is ready for a midfield role in the Premier League as he still hasn’t got used to not having the luxury of the time on the ball he had in the French league and as a result he is too easily knocked off the ball.
QPR earned a hard point at Wigan, a point that we would not have got a month ago, so credit must go to the way the team has upped their efforts. But going forward in the last 3rd we are uncomfortably lacking in ideas. We are not getting the ball in the area enough or getting enough bodies in the box and although we got the second goal, it never looked likely that we would. After we equalised in the first half SWP received the ball on the right in the Wigan area, but he just didn’t know what to do, panicked and a scuffed shot wide of the goal. Too many times in the first half SWP and Bosingwa were in advanced positions, but nothing ever came of it, with Diakite, Mbia and Taarabt equally culpable. It’s been happening for a while now and Harry has got to sort it out before we play Fulham.
The position we find ourselves in now, is where I feared we would have been last season, not this season. But the fact remains that we have now played the teams around us and have failed to beat them, that’s not good enough and we have not been good enough.  We must do better if we are to get out of this. I still think we’ve got a run of form in us and we can survive if we find some form early enough.We are off the pack at present, so further failures could put survival beyond us. Having said that we are unbeaten in three games now and Harry has collected the same tally of away points in two games as his predecessor did in a year. Now that’s a start… that’s an improvement and it might just be the start of the recovery.
So on to Saturday and a date with ending a winless streak and avenging last season results against the Tourists next to the river from SW6. I think we’re too nice to them and a  Chelsea-esk hostile reception would be more appropriate. Loftus Road should be somewhere no one wants to go and go home pointless, it’s key to our survival and something we fans can do to help us achieve it.
Come on you R’s.
The Bush Ranger


Monday, 3 December 2012

#14 - Stopping The Rot

Harry Redknapp was welcomed to Loftus Road on Saturday with warm enthusiasm by the R’s faithful with Harry’s blue and white army ringing around the stadium as Harry selected his second QPR team in our quest for survival.

Mackie heads fans to celebrate after scoring
Harry kept with his solid midfield core of Diakate, Mbia and Granero with Taarabt having a free roll and Mackie playing up front with the surprising inclusion of Shaun Wright-Phillips (to fill in the hole when Taarabt dropped deeper) at the expense of Cisse. The back four remained unchanged with Bosingwa, Hill Nelson and Traore. QPR began strongly and all looked promising in a cracking atmosphere until, against the run of play, a snap shot from Villa’s summer signing Holman, beat Green from outside the area to secure his first goal for his club. I doubt Cesar would have been beaten by this innocuous effort had he been playing and Green really should have kept it out considering he got a hand to it. That goes down as another Green clanger in my book and I really can’t see him getting the nod over Cesar. (Why is it whenever we play teams whose strikers are having a goal drought it always ends when they play QPR!) R’s fans feared that, as in previous weeks, Rangers heads would drop, but QPR levelled it up 10 minutes later when good work on the right saw Mackie meet a Diakite cross to head in a marvellous equaliser.

Villa’s young side were competitive and the R’s had to work hard to gain the upper hand. Granero was uncharacteristically careless at times today as some of his passes went wayward, however both teams were guilty of giving the ball away cheaply all afternoon and Harry needs to work hard on ball retention now that the team has started to work harder. Diakite was effective and he along with Mbia was able to get Taarabt into the game to create QPR’s chances. SWP had the R’s best chances in the first half, shooting straight at the keeper in a one-on-one after being picked out by a superb through ball and was unlucky after another through ball in which he hit the upright as he was fouled by a Villa defender and could easily have had a penalty. Mbia suffered a worrying neck injury just before half time after a collision off the ball with Agbonlahor and was stretchered off after prolonged treatment on the pitch, that had many of us fearing the worst. Harry’s preferred replacement was in the shape of the more physical Derry. Granero was sacrificed at the interval for Park as Harry further compensated for the loss of Mbia.

QPR upped the tempo for the second half and enjoyed long spells of possession with a surprisingly harder working Bosingwa having a lot of joy on the right side, but lacking the quality to put effective balls in the area. Traore threatened on the left, but was too easily knocked off the ball. The killer instinct was lacking in the last third and R’s didn’t look as if they understood each other in the danger areas, taking too many touches and needless passes without really threatening in a menacing manner. We did force a number of corners and Park wasted a glorious chance after one of the best moves of the match found him unmarked on the left in the area only for him to shoot at the keeper, when he had time to take a touch and do better.

Villa made a number of negative substitutions opting to play for the point and this coupled with the loss of Diakite on 70 minutes to an ankle injury after a bad Villa tackle saw the pace slow down and the service to Taarabt dry up, effectively ending any real threat we had of getting a winner, as Villa were resilient in defending for a draw. Hill did hit the crossbar from one of our many corners late on, but although we did just about enough to have won the game today, it was never going to happen as is the way with fate when things aren’t going for you and you are at the bottom of the league.

Rednapp  Welcome to QPR
On a positive note this was a strong and hardworking performance and it was pleasing to see the R’s pressing for the ball and forcing Villa to retreat when we were not in possession of the ball, something lacking for most of the season. Mackie lead the line well and again delivered with a goal whilst running his heart out for the cause of QPR and we really should have got the ball to him in the danger areas more often. Had the chances that fell to SWP have fallen to Mackie you can be sure he would have put one of them away. The midfield remained solid despite the enforced changes and back the four were more organised and could consider themselves unfortunate not to have kept a blank sheet.

It’s still too early in Harry’s reign to tell if he has truly stopped the rot, but on the evidence of the last two games and the improvement in the players work rate, the middle and the back, it looks as if he is stopping the rot, plus we have at last managed to avoid defeat in consecutive games for the first time this season. We have certainly got to improve going forward if we are going to get out of this mess and it is vital that we start to pick up some wins in the games up to the new year. In my last blog I mistakenly stated that we had 15 points by Jan 1st 2012, it was in fact 17 points, but we still need to have earned a minimum of 15 points by Jan 1st 2013 to be in with a realistic chance of survival, or more importantly the support of the board in the transfer market in Jan. Harry was keen to emphasise that QPR would need to be within touching distance of the pack come Jan 1st in order to secure funds for the forthcoming transfer window. I hope this is not a subliminal message from Tony and the board that, should this not be the case, they will give up and accept relegation, with half the season to go. Therefore, it is vitally important we do stay in touch with the pack. I was bitterly disappointed that we failed to beat Villa, but on reflection we have reduced the gap to safety by a point this weekend.

It is a difficult time to be an R’s fan at the moment and I like most of you wake up each morning to that sickening feeling when you remember we are still bottom of the Premier League. The task at hand does look daunting and it’s easy to start to believe to doom mongers in the media writing us off. But I look at it this way. Where is it written that the team at the bottom at Christmas has to be relegated? We might not even be by then. There’s still over half a season to go. Surely we can’t repeat this run of bad form for the other half of the season. None of us saw that coming, so why can’t we have a reversal of fortunes? Our form has only got to be 7 points better than our relegation rivals. Put it that way and I think it’s achievable, but it’s got to start now.

So, on to Wigan next Saturday for a difficult, but winnable away fixture, but we are QPR so anything can happen. Could this be the day that we enjoy the delirium of securing 3 points? Take the trip up there to see if we can, I am.

Renewed blind optimism - it’s the QPR way.
Come on you R’s 

The Bush Ranger